New health alert after West Nile Virus detected in Alentejo

Two years after a major health alert in the Algarve, a new threat of West Nile Virus has been detected – this time in the Alentejo.

Regional health bosses ask locals to adopt “measures of protection”.

The virus, that in worst case scenarios can cause meningitis and encephalitis, has been identified in a horse, in Alcácer do Sal.

Transmission is “exclusively” through infected mosquitoes, thus advice involves people using nets and repellents – and particularly making sure that babies in pushchairs and cribs are protected.

This latest infection (carried by the Culex pipiens species of mosquito) was detected in June, say reports this morning – giving no indication as to why the health alert was only emitted today.

People are told to look out for signs of infection in animals, though a sick animal cannot transmit the virus on its own.

Prime ‘reservoir hosts’ are birds – particularly migratory birds – explains people’s tabloid Correio da Manhã, which has interpreted the scare as “threatening the VIP resort of Comporta”, close to Alcácer – and a spot not long ago chosen by Madonna for a frolic with her adopted children on the beach.

Mammals are described by the paper as “accidental hosts” of the virus, which can leave up to 80% of people infected with no symptoms at all.

But if people are unlucky enough to develop symptoms, these can range from “light to moderate fever”, with accompanying joint pain and occasionally nausea and vomiting.

In only 1% of cases do people go on to develop neurological symptoms which are “characterised by serious illness (meningitis and encephalitis)”, says CM, adding that “around 10% of these cases end up dying”.

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